Warren Mundine, head of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, has launched a vicious tirade against the federal government over its new inquiry into Indigenous imprisonment, asking which “dickhead” thought it up.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis announced on Thursday the government will ask the Australian Law Reform Commission to examine the factors leading to the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in prison.
“I have decided to make a new reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission, to ask them to examine the incarceration of Indigenous Australians, and to consider what law reform measures can be put in place to help ameliorate this national tragedy,” Senator Brandis said.
Mr Mundine said work to highlight the massive overrepresentation of Indigenous prisoners in jail had already been done.
He told Sky News that holding another inquiry – rather than acting on the reports that have already been conducted – was a joke and reflective of the poor performance of the government.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) October 27, 2016
“I don’t know who the dickhead is who actually thought up this incredible brilliant idea. It’s just a total waste of taxation money,” Mr Mundine said.
“It’s going to have no end. I actually could tell them what they need to do.
“I just find this a joke, and I’m getting sick and tired of the crap that is coming out of this government in regard to Indigenous affairs.”
It’s been 25 years since the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and federal Senator Brandis said Australia has gone backwards in that time.
Indigenous Australians made up 14 per cent of the national prison population in 1991 – by 2015 it was up to 27 per cent.
Indigenous children and teenagers are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than their non-Indigenous peers and Aboriginal women are 30 times more likely to be jailed, Senator Brandis told a law conference in Melbourne on Thursday.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
More than one in four Australian prisoners are Indigenous, despite making up just 2 per cent of the overall Australia population.
Legal and human rights groups have been campaigning for the federal government to intervene, but the Coalition has previously sought to highlight the lead role of the states and territories.
Labor changes tune on inquiry support
Labor is now in favour of the inquiry, but earlier on Thursday – when it was first announced – shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said it was not needed.
A joint statement from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, assistant Indigenous affairs spokesman Pat Dodson and Mr Dreyfus was released on Thursday afternoon.
“Labor welcomes today’s announcement,” the statement said.
“The government should not use today’s announcement as an excuse for delay.”
But earlier Mr Dreyfus had a different view.
“We don’t need another inquiry,” he told reporters on Thursday morning.
Mr Shorten has also renewed calls for the government to consider how to increase non-custodial options for offenders.
Australian Bar Association president Patrick O’Sullivan welcomed the inquiry in a statement, describing the rate of Indigenous incarceration as a “national disgrace”.
“This announcement [is] a significant opportunity to make informed and practical changes that address this problem and deliver better justice outcomes for Indigenous Australians and the country as a whole.”
Rod Little from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples said the government should start by looking at the findings of the 1991 Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody.
“If there was a thorough analysis of what had been implemented and not implemented, to see what the success of those would be, it would be a good start point for an inquiry,” he said.
Incarcerations per state: